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Obama-Hagel 2008?

1:15 AM, Jun 11, 2008 • By STEPHEN F. HAYES
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The AP has an interesting look at Barack Obama's vice presidential possibilities. One name is missing: Chuck Hagel.

Hagel has to be considered at least a possibility. Although he was an active supporter of John McCain in 2000, Hagel has not yet endorsed in the current two-man race. Last week, he signed on to the partisan critique of the Bush administration produced by Senate Democrats. It's the latest in a long string of Hagel's criticism of his own party, its current leader and its likely nominee.

But that's not all. In recent months, Hagel has gone out of his way several times to praise Obama. He has been a consistent advocate of Democratic foreign policy priorities. He defended Obama specifically on his willingness to meet with foreign leaders, including enemies, without preconditions. He raised the prospect of impeachment if the Bush administration were to attack Iran. And his wife has contributed to Obama's campaign.

Hagel would make sense for several reasons. He is a decorated military veteran. He would minimize concerns about Obama's youth and inexperience. He would bring government expertise on issues sure to be at the center of the presidential campaign: the economy, Hagel has been a successful businessman and serves on the Senate banking committee; and on foreign policy and national security, since he serves on both the Intelligence and Foreign Relations committees. Most important, perhaps, he would show that Obama is serious when he talks about changing Washington and running a post-partisan administration.

Potential complications? If Hagel is a moderate -- many of his colleagues would say "liberal" -- on foreign policy, he remains a mainstream conservative on economic policy. (In 2007, according to National Journal's rankings, Hagel was the 18th most conservative senator on economic policy.) That won't excite the Democratic base. Hagel also mused publicly about the possibility of running with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and, given his frequent media appearances, is widely seen as a gloryhound as interested in the public spotlight as he is in governing.

Still, it's a prospect that concerns some Republicans. "If he offers it to Hagel, a lot of independents who don't follow things closely could be pretty significantly swayed by that," says one well-placed Republican observer. "Hagel is McCain to most people, and a vote for Obama-Hagel gives them both. I think that would be very smart."